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Week 2 takeaways: A Cowboys rally, brutal 49ers injury streak and more



Week 2 in the NFL was marked by numerous injuries to big-name players, wild comebacks, huge individual performances and some more injuries to big-name players.

In Sunday’s early slate, Saquon Barkley, Drew Lock, Nick Bosa and Jimmy Garoppolo headlined a long list of players who were forced out and potentially face long absences. The 49ers, in particular, were battered with injury issues throughout their win on Sunday. Elsewhere, the Cowboys mounted a huge comeback against the Falcons to win on a field goal in the final seconds, the Titans held off the Jaguars for a close win to take sole possession of first place in the AFC South and the Bears escaped a Giants rally in the closing minutes.

The Eagles stumbled to another loss, and the Vikings’ offense couldn’t find any footing in their defeat. And as far as big performances go, Aaron Jones shined in going over 200 scrimmage yards and scoring three times.

In the afternoon games, Kyler Murray dazzled with his rushing ability, the Texans’ offense couldn’t find a spark and the Chiefs navigated a comeback win on a long field goal.

Sunday’s night game was an offensive explosion, as Seattle’s Russell Wilson tied a career high with five touchdown passes in a matchup with the Patriots that came down to the final three seconds.

All that and more in Week 2‘s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:



In the game’s final seconds, Cam Newton tries to run in the winning touchdown, but the Seahawks’ defense stops him to secure a 35-30 win over the Patriots.

Standout performer for NE-SEA: Russell Wilson, 21-of-28, 288 yards, 5 TDs, INT

Wilson once again looks like an MVP candidate, but the Seahawks need their defense to catch up. Wilson tied a career high with five touchdowns, giving him nine TDs over the first two games to one interception that was the result of a drop. The Seahawks had to have everything they got from Wilson with a mixed bag of a performance from their defense. Allowing a ton of yards to Matt Ryan and the Falcons last week was understandable given how Seattle jumped out to a big lead and then went into prevent mode. Less understandable was only sacking Cam Newton once and nearly allowing him to rally the Patriots from a 12-point deficit with 4½ minutes left, before getting a goal-line stop on the contest’s final play. The Seahawks’ pass rush was a major question mark heading into the season, and it remains one through two games. — Brady Henderson

Next game: vs. Dallas (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Deep ball. Deep trouble. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wilson was the best deep-ball thrower in the NFL, and that’s ultimately what sunk his team despite a valiant comeback bid. How rare was this for the Patriots’ secondary? Consider that opposing wide receivers scored four touchdowns against the Patriots over the course of the 2019 season. Wilson had four in the game Sunday night — and five TD passes overall. Wilson’s five touchdowns ties for the most ever against Belichick’s Patriots, with the Saints’ Drew Brees throwing for five in 2009. — Mike Reiss

Next game: vs. Las Vegas (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer for LAR-PHI: Jared Goff, 20-of-27, 267 passing yards, 3 TDs

The Rams’ offense fired on all cylinders. Jared Goff completed 13 consecutive passes to start the game, as the Rams’ play-action and misdirection kept the Eagles’ defense on its heels. Seven Rams players recorded a carry, while six caught a pass. “We had guys open, and I was throwing the ball pretty good,” Goff said. Now the offense must maintain momentum as the Rams return to L.A. before traveling to the East Coast again next Sunday to play the Bills. — Lindsey Thiry

Next game: at Buffalo (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Carson Wentz (242 yards, two interceptions) could not match the level of play of his old training partner, Goff, and now the Eagles are in an 0-2 hole. Philadelphia needed its franchise quarterback to elevate the offense and meet the moment, and he didn’t deliver despite a much-improved performance from the offensive line. There is plenty of time to turn things around, but the concern is growing when it comes to the starting QB. — Tim McManus

Next game: vs. Cincinnati (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer for ATL-DAL: Dak Prescott, 450 passing yards, 1 passing TD, 3 rushing TDs

The difference between 1-1 and 0-2 might not mean what it had in past years, with an additional wild-card team being added this season. But how the Cowboys got to 1-1 is more meaningful than the fact that they’re back to .500. Overcoming a 20-0 deficit in the first quarter and a 15-point hole with less than five minutes to play to beat Atlanta is something that could give this team a push going forward. “We all know where we want to go, and we all understand it’s a process,” linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “We embrace each moment, but whenever you win in the National Football League, you have to embrace it. We’re going to evaluate the footage and figure out how we can get better and grow. This is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, and we want to peak when we need to peak.” — Todd Archer

Next game: at Seattle (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

No matter how you dissect it, this was an embarrassing loss for the Falcons and one that could linger the rest of the season. An 0-2 start was not what owner Arthur Blank signed up for when he decided to keep both coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after back-to-back 7-9 seasons. Yes, it’s too early to rule the Falcons out of playoff contention, but a fast start was critical, especially with how difficult NFC South play will be against Drew Brees‘ Saints and Tom Brady‘s Bucs. Quinn said he’s going to take things game by game, and he gave an emphatic “No,” when asked whether any coaching changes would be made. The Falcons have no choice but to turn it around against a surprisingly undefeated Bears team next week at home, or else they could find themselves 0-4 out of the gate with a road trip to Green Bay in Week 4. — Vaughn McClure

Next game: vs. Chicago (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer for DEN-PIT: Mike Hilton, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery, 8 tackles

Ben Roethlisberger looked mortal in his home debut with an interception and a couple of missed throws, but he emphasized the offensive miscues were his fault, complimenting his receivers for running the right routes and being in the right place. “A lot of the throws I missed is me needing to trust myself and that the guys are in the right spots because they are in the right places,” Roethlisberger said. With the offense struggling to find an identity in the third quarter, the defense came through to preserve the win, making up for gifting the Broncos six first downs on penalties with a massive 11-yard sack on fourth down by Terrell Edmunds with less than two minutes remaining. — Brooke Pryor

Next game: vs. Houston (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season, the Broncos have used seven different starting quarterbacks, and Pat Shurmur is now their fifth different offensive coordinator in the past five years. Jeff Driskel could be the eighth starting quarterback next week after Drew Lock left the game in the first quarter with a right (throwing) shoulder injury. Driskel tried to rally the Broncos before a failed fourth-down conversion inside the two-minute warning ended those hopes. And for the Broncos to have any success next week, they need to protect Driskel. Lock and Driskel were sacked a combined seven times and hit 18 others. — Jeff Legwold

Next game: vs. Tampa Bay (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)



Drew Lock exits the game and would not return after a hard hit by Bud Dupree causes him to fumble and injure his right shoulder.

Standout performer for SF-NYJ: Jordan Reed, 50 receiving yards, 2 TDs

A team that was already without tight end George Kittle, receiver Deebo Samuel, defensive end Dee Ford and cornerback Richard Sherman watched as defensive end Nick Bosa (left knee), quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (right ankle), running backs Raheem Mostert (knee) and Tevin Coleman (knee) and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (knee) departed and did not return. Bosa might have suffered a torn ACL, something coach Kyle Shanahan said is “most likely,” and a high ankle sprain for Garoppolo could cost him time. “You’ve got a little mixed emotions when you lose some guys like that,” Shanahan said. “We had a good team last year and we have got a good team this year. I just told the guys we do have a good team, but there’s also so many guys in our place that can get a lot better.” The Niners will need that improvement to happen fast and hope for better days to come on the injury front. — Nick Wagoner

Next game: at N.Y. Giants (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Jets are an absolute mess, and the Adam Gase Watch is on. They were noncompetitive for the second consecutive week, regressing in all areas. CEO Christopher Johnson said last week he will base his end-of-season evaluation on Gase on whether the team shows progress. At the rate the Jets are going, he won’t make it to the end of the year. Injuries are mounting, making the challenge that much greater. — Rich Cimini

Next game: at Indianapolis (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer for MIN-IND: Jonathan Taylor, 101 rushing yards, 1 TD

The Colts’ defense responded to a poor performance in Week 1 by intercepting Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins three times, sacking him three times and holding Minnesota’s offense to 175 yards. At one point in the second half, Cousins had a 0.0 rating. The Colts needed a game like Sunday to avoid questions about a defensive unit that was supposed to take a step forward with the addition of DeForest Buckner and the return of Darius Leonard. For one week, they answered those questions. — Mike Wells

Next game: vs. N.Y. Jets (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Vikings are in trouble. In a year in which the defense is undergoing a major rebuild, the offense has not been able to pull its weight in two miserable early-season losses. The identity of this team is not what it’s been for the past six seasons, and according to coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings are “not very good at anything.” It’s going to take a while before Minnesota’s defense is back to being one of the top units in the NFL. Until then, the offense has to find workarounds for its lackluster pass protection, unproven receiving corps (outside of Adam Thielen) and disastrous play at quarterback. — Courtney Cronin

Next game: vs. Tennessee (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer for DET-GB: Aaron Jones, 168 rushing yards, 68 receiving yards, 3 total TDs

How can the Packers not pay Aaron Jones after he totaled a career-best 236 yards from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns against the Lions? In a perfect, non-salary-cap world, that wouldn’t even be a question. Even in the world in which the Packers operate, they’re going to have to start asking themselves that question if the fourth-year running back with an expiring contract keeps doing what he did in Sunday’s win over the Lions in the home opener at Lambeau Field. — Rob Demovsky

Next game: at New Orleans (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Lions lost a double-digit lead for the fourth consecutive game, which was also their 11th straight loss. At least the collapse didn’t come at the end against Green Bay. Instead, it happened at the end of the first half and start of the second, when a 14-3 lead evaporated with 31 straight Packers points. At 0-2, 2020 is starting to feel a lot like a continuation of last season, when the Lions went 3-12-1 and were one of the worst teams in the league. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: at Arizona (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer for CAR-TB: Leonard Fournette, 103 rushing yards, 2 TDs

The Bucs’ defense notched four takeaways, with two setting up scoring drives, while Leonard Fournette broke out for 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 12 touches. The offensive line also didn’t give up a sack. That’s exactly the kind of support Tom Brady and his receivers need while they continue to get more on the same page. Brady went 23-of-35 for 217 passing yards, a touchdown, an interception and a fumbled exchange with Ronald Jones II. “Consistency, dependability are gonna be things we really need,” Brady said. “Defense played great the first two games. We’ve gotta match ’em.” — Jenna Laine

Next game: at Denver (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)



Leonard Fournette gives the Bucs a 14-point lead with under 2 minutes remaining to put away the Panthers.

The question isn’t whether the Panthers can turn things around after an 0-2 start. It’s whether they can do it without their best player, running back Christian McCaffrey, if he misses time with an ankle/lower-leg injury suffered on a 7-yard touchdown run with about 13:30 remaining. Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay was filled with mistakes, highlighted by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater‘s four turnovers. Those things can be corrected, and Bridgewater doesn’t have a history of being mistake-prone. But replacing McCaffrey, who last year became the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season, won’t be so easy if his injury is serious. — David Newton

Next game: at L.A. Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer for BUF-MIA: Josh Allen, 417 passing yards, 4 TDs

Buffalo didn’t just improve its passing offense this offseason — it might have become one of the most proficient aerial attacks in the NFL. Josh Allen has looked like an elite passer over his past two games, and trading for Stefon Diggs (eight catches, 153 yards, TD) has immediately paid off. The Bills’ ability to put points up quickly will serve them well now that their schedule gets a lot more difficult over the next month. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: vs. L.A. Rams (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

It was eye-opening to see how Allen exposed what was supposed to be the strength of the Dolphins: their pass defense. But the biggest takeaway? The Dolphins continue to show fight and improvement, but they have gaping flaws and are still rebuilding rather than truly competing for the AFC East. At 0-2, the Dolphins look like a team at least a year or two away, rather than a team truly ready to compete for a playoff spot. — Cameron Wolfe

Next game: at Jacksonville (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)

Standout performer for JAX-TEN: Stephen Gostkowski, 2-of-2 FGs, including 49-yard game winner

Even in a win, the defense needs to perform better. Tennessee gave up 165 rushing yards to the Jaguars, and it had a lot of missed tackles. Gardner Minshew II also threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns, as Jacksonville gained 480 yards on offense. But the Titans were fortunate to get two late stops on the last two drives by the Jaguars, and Jeffery Simmons‘ tipped pass intercepted by Harold Landry sealed the game. — Turron Davenport

Next game: at Minnesota (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Jaguars made stopping Derrick Henry a priority, limiting him to 84 yards on 25 carries. But they couldn’t stop Ryan Tannehill, who threw for 239 yards and four TDs. The Jaguars were down starting free safety Jarrod Wilson but had every other starter in the secondary until cornerback D.J. Hayden was evaluated for a concussion on the Titans’ game-winning drive. The Jags didn’t get much pressure on Tannehill, either. They sacked him once and now have two sacks through the first two games of the season. — Mike DiRocco

Next game: vs. Miami (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)

Standout performer for NYG-CHI: David Montgomery, 82 rushing yards, 45 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD

The Bears are 2-0, but it’s impossible to tell whether they’re actually any good. Just when you want to start believing in Matt Nagy’s offense and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears score zero second-half points against a depleted Giants defense. Chicago’s defense — a group Nagy recently referred to as the NFL’s best — has played spotty football through two weeks. And New York’s offense — without Saquon Barkley or Sterling Shepard — almost erased a 17-point deficit and won the game as time expired. That is not how a championship defense is supposed to look. The Bears have benefited from playing two subpar teams to open the season, but the schedule won’t remain soft forever. — Jeff Dickerson

Next game: at Atlanta (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Giants likely lost Saquon Barkley for the season to a torn ACL. “I mean, that’s Saquon Barkley,” running back Dion Lewis said after the loss. “You lose a guy like that, it’s a huge loss.” The Giants also lost WR Sterling Shepard (toe) and are off to an 0-2 start for the fourth consecutive year and seventh time in eight seasons. But at least they can take some solace from almost battling back from a 17-point halftime deficit without Barkley. The Giants had the ball on Chicago’s 10-yard line with four seconds remaining and a chance to win the game. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: vs. San Francisco (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)



After being forced out of bounds, Saquon Barkley clutches at his right knee in pain and has to be helped off the field.

Standout performer for WSH-ARI: Kyler Murray, 286 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 67 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs

Kyler Murray finished Sunday’s game among the NFL’s leaders in rushing touchdowns. His two running scores gave him three on the season, one off the league lead. Those touchdowns helped the Cardinals overwhelm Washington to improve to 2-0 with two winnable games up next on the schedule (Detroit and Carolina). — Josh Weinfuss

Next game: vs. Detroit (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Washington’s Week 1 win over Philadelphia showed what the coaches hope the team becomes: a resilient group with a big-play defense. But the Week 2 loss to Arizona shows it’ll take a while to get there. The offense is inexperienced and lacks enough playmakers, not to mention the sort of line that Ron Rivera wants. The season will become about who just needs experience and who needs to be replaced — whether now or next season. — John Keim

Next game: at Cleveland (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer for BAL-HOU: Marlon Humphrey, 7 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 QB hit

The Ravens can win without Lamar Jackson delivering an NFL MVP game. The Baltimore defense forced two turnovers, including a 22-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by linebacker L.J. Fort. The Ravens’ running backs totaled 176 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown from Mark Ingram II on a direct snap. This was the first time in nine games in which Jackson didn’t contribute multiple touchdowns. — Jamison Hensley

Next game: vs. Kansas City (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday, Sept. 28)

Two weeks, two subpar offensive performances for the Texans. Houston’s gamble of trading wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for running back David Johnson hasn’t paid off so far, and No. 1 receiver Will Fuller V did not have a target in Sunday’s loss. The Texans’ schedule doesn’t get any easier, as they face the 2-0 Steelers in Week 3. — Sarah Barshop

Next game: at Pittsburgh (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer for KC-LAC: Harrison Butker, 3 of 3 FGs, including 58-yard game winner

The Chiefs can feel confident they can score points any time they get the ball to the opponent’s 40-yard line. Harrison Butker’s added field goal range gives them another dimension. He showed the range by making two 58-yard kicks, including the winner in overtime. Butker said he kicked a 67-yarder in pregame and a 70-yarder at halftime, so it’s no wonder the Chiefs were confident in him at such a distance. — Adam Teicher

Next game: at Baltimore (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday, Sept. 28)

Quarterback Justin Herbert impressed in his surprising NFL debut. He was 22-of-33 for 311 yards and two touchdowns, one of them on the ground, in a heartbreaking loss to the Chiefs in overtime. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn didn’t know he would need to start Herbert until after the coin toss, when he found out Tyrod Taylor was experiencing chest pains that necessitated a trip to the hospital. Despite Herbert’s performance, Lynn sounds committed to Taylor as the starter if he’s healthy enough for Week 3. — Alden Gonzalez

Next game: vs. Carolina (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer for CIN-CLE: Baker Mayfield, 219 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Coming off a rough 2019 season and even rougher 2020 season opener on Sunday, quarterback Baker Mayfield roared back with perhaps the sharpest performance since his rookie season. Mayfield connected on his first five passes, including a 43-yard TD to Odell Beckham Jr. After struggling in the 32-point season-opening loss at Baltimore, Mayfield said the potential of a talented offense built around him was “not just false hopes.” Cleveland will have tests ahead tougher than Cincinnati, but this was a strong step, both for Baker and the Browns. — Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Washington (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow showed flashes of his potential for the second time in five days, throwing for 316 yards on 61 attempts with three touchdowns. But after Thursday’s loss, it’s clear Burrow needs those around him to play well if he’s going to make the most of his first NFL season. In his second pro start, Burrow was able to move the offense down the field despite the lack of big plays. However, the rookie constantly found himself under pressure and needing to overcome the play of his teammates. — Ben Baby

Next game: at Philadelphia (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home



On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
– MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”



Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.


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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment



The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.


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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls



With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast


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